This article covers everything you need to do to get a long-stay visitor visa for France (allows you to stay longer than 3 months). I just went through this process and received my “Long stay visa for visitors.” This article is intended to answer any questions that you may have and to clear up general confusion in regards to some of the requirements. Here, I will cover every step, explain every document, and tell you exactly what I did in order to get this visa.
This article applies to the “Long stay visa for visitors” for France.
First, let’s talk about the type of visa for which I applied and received. France is one of the few European countries that allows you to apply for a visa that, basically, has no requirements once you arrive. This means that there is no student, work, or investment requirement like there are for most visas for most European countries. This means that you can get a visa to basically do nothing but visit the country, but for longer than the standard three months. In other words, this visa allows you maximum flexibility and freedom once you get it. There are many types of visas for which you may apply to go to France and this particular visa is called “Long stay visa for visitors.” The standard duration of it is for 6 months but you can extend it to 1 year and continually renew it after that if you want.
Here is the general process through which you must go in order to get the visa: collect a bunch of documents, get an id picture taken, fill out a few forms, and take all of that to a French consulate for a pre-scheduled 5 minute “interview.” Each step and more will be covered below.
This entire process was much easier and faster than I thought that it would be; from start to finish it took about 3 weeks. Note that I am a U.S. citizen and am writing from that perspective.
Getting the documents for the visa application was actually quite easy and took me less than a week (all requirements explained in the requirements section below). Most of the forms could be printed off by me and any forms that I did not already have, such as the insurance documents, were sent to me via email the same day that I requested them. Though, I would not wait until the last minute to do all of this; especially if you don’t already have travel insurance, which I did.
After collecting the documents, you schedule an appointment through the internet and then go to a visa appointment/interview at the French consulate for your region. This was annoying though since I had to make my way to Chicago and pay to stay for a night, but I just turned that into a mini-vacation and did touristy things for a couple days and enjoyed the city.
The interview itself was not at all an interview and it was quick and easy (explained below) and I basically just handed them all of my documents and answered a few minor questions.
Once you submit all of your documents and your passport, they take a week or two to make a decision and mail your passport back to you with or without the visa inside of it. When I was there, they told me that it would take 7-10 days for a decision to be made and I actually got my passport back in 9 days with my visa inside of it.
I have to say that I was quite nervous going into this and I wasn’t sure that I would get the visa; but, as it turns out, the process was quite simple and they were very nice at the French consulate in Chicago.
Below, I will list comprehensive explanations of everything that you have to do and everything that I did, including explanations of the requirements for the visa, where to apply for it, and the interview process and what that is like.
The first thing that you need to do is to figure out where you have to apply for this visa and how you need to apply for it. I am a U.S. citizen and so I had to apply for the visa from my home country; U.S. citizens are NOT allowed to apply from within France or from another country outside of France other than the U.S.A.
There are a number of different zones or regions within the U.S. and each zone has its own consulate. You will apply for the visa from the French Consulate that is located in your region. Here is a link to the page from the French Embassy that will direct you to the correct French Consulate office in your region: http://ambafrance-us.org/spip.php?article330.
Unfortunately, you may have to travel to another state just to visit the consulate, like I did.
Once you find out where you need to apply, go to the website for that consulate and find the page that tells you what you need to do to apply for the visa. The website for each region will have slightly different information and wording and may even list slightly different requirements for that particular consulate. For instance, how they want you to word a document that you write or how they want you to arrange for your documents to be sent back to you.
All of the main and most important requirements will be the same; it’s just the particulars that you need to watch out for when compiling your documents etc. So, make sure to check the requirements for the consulate through which you need to apply.
Below, I copied and pasted the requirements section from the French consulate in Chicago, which is where I had to go, and I will explain each of the requirements and what I provided in order to get my visa.
Click each section below to get an explanation of the specifics for each requirement and what I did.
(copied word-for-word from the French Consulate in Chicago’s requirements page: http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article482)
- One application form (click here for the English version) filled out completely and signed by the applicant.
- One ID pictureglued/stapled onto the application form (white background, full face, no glasses nor hat, closed mouth)
- Questionnaire duly filled out in French
- Original passport or travel document (+ ONE COPY of the identity pages). Your passport must have been issued less than 10 years ago, be valid for at least three months after your return to the US and have at least 2 blank visas pages left.
- Status in the US – If you are not a US citizen, copy of your green card or visa.
- Letter explaining what you intend on doing in France.
- Letter promising not to engage in any employment in France (signature certified by a notary public)
- Letter of employment in the US stating occupation and earnings
- Proof of means of income – letter from the bank, investment certificates, pension slips, …
- Proof of medical insurance
- Marriage certificate or family book + Birth certificates for children
- Enrollment in a school for the children.
- Proof of accommodation in France (title deeds, lease or rental agreement)
- Processing fee
- If you intend on staying in France for more than 6 months: One residence form duly filled out (upper part only)
- A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope from the US POST OFFICE ONLY – NO FEDEX / UPS / AIRBORNE EXPRESS accepted.You may use one envelope per family if you buy `flat rate`Please do NOT stick the mailing label on the envelope and fill out as follows :
I did not include the links to the application forms here in case they change them on the French Consulate website. You can get the documents from the consulate’s requirements page (for Chicago: http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article482) and look to requirement number 1.
This is a pretty straightforward requirement. The only confusion might be which document to submit, the English or French version. I submitted the French version of the form and just used the English one to figure out what to input. If there was anything in the document other than an address or name or date I input it in French. I am not certain if this matters or not but I wanted to be extra careful since, as you will notice with requirement 3, that must be filled out in French.
For questions that deal with employment or host institutions, I did not have any and so I simply didn’t put anything in those fields.
For question 25, “What will be your address in France during your stay?” I put the address for my temporary accommodation in France, which was a hostel. I didn’t have any problems putting this address and I was not asked to explain it when I went for the interview. It shouldn’t be a problem to put your hotel address or any other temporary address here, but you may need to support it with further documents. The address for the hostel here matched the address listed on documents that I provided for a later requirement proving that I had accommodation in France.
Also, if you are applying for a visitor visa, to which this article applies, make sure to check the “Private stay/Visitor” box for question number 23.
For question 27, if you intend to stay in France longer than 6 months, you will need to fill out an additional form later in the requirements. I chose to get the visa for 6 months or less and the actual visa that they ended up giving me has an entry and exit date listed that spans 6 months.
This is a standard ID photo. Just make sure to follow the rules: no glasses, no hat, no smiling, nothing covering your face, including any hair. And it is best to just get this from a drug store or camera shop just to make sure the dimensions of the photo are correct and that it is on photo paper.
If you mess up your photo, for instance by leaving on your glasses, they will make you re-take the photo; this happened to a girl that went for her interview before me and they simply told her to get a new photo from the drug store down the street and come back, which she did, and they would put it in with her application, which they did all in the same day
I did not include the link to the questionnaire here in case they change the document on the French consulate website. You can get the document from the consulate’s requirements page (for Chicago: http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article482) and look to requirement number 3.
This was a bit of a hassle for me to do since I don’t speak, read, or write French, but it was not too big of a deal.
What I did was to use Google Translate to figure out what the questions were asking and then I filled in my answers on a temporary form. After that, I used Google Translate to change my answers from English to French, which was pretty easy because most of my answers were “no” or simply “non” in French. For the few answers that were not “non”, I asked a friend of mine, who is French, to help me out, but I understand now that this is really not necessary.
Google Translate will do everything you need for this form quite well. When using Google Translate, it is best to translate small phrases instead of sentences due to grammar issues that arise when using the translator. The one issue you might have is with this question:
Si vous aviez l’intention de vous établir définitivement en France, quelle serait votre profession?
I think you could answer it satisfactorily with “non” but, with the help of my French friend, this is what I put:
Je n’ai pas l’intention de rester de manière permanente ou definitive en France
This means something like “I don’t plan on staying permanently in France.” Obviously, change your answer according to your needs.
In addition to translation issues, there is one question that threw-me-off on this form and that was this one: “Sont-ils transférables en France?” This question, following the two above it on the form, is asking you if you can transfer your income to France. I simply put “non” for this even though I mentioned other revenues in the questions above this one on the form. Depending on how you make your money, if you are making any money, this question can be tricky but, if you are staying for less than 6 months (the generally accepted tax threshold), your answer to this should not really matter so long as you do not plan on working in France.
Also, don’t worry if you don’t have a current income or salary or job (questions at the top of this form) because, for this visa, it seemed to me that the most important factor is your savings because, remember, you cannot work in France under this visa.
Don’t forget that, at the end, you will need it notarized where it says “Signature et sceau du notaire.”
Note that they do keep your passport during the application process. When you go in for your interview, you will hand them the copy of the ID page on your passport and your passport, which they will send back to you in the mail either with or without the visa placed in your passport. Also, make sure it is not more than 10 years old, is valid for 3 months longer than you plan to stay in France, and has at least 2 blank visa pages left inside.
When you make a copy of the ID pages, just open the passport to where your picture is displayed and copy the pages that you see and make sure that you signed the page opposite the one with your photo before you make the copy.
I am a U.S. Citizen and so I just made a one page document that said “I, NAME HERE, am a citizen of the United States of America” and I signed, dated, and had notarized the document.
Any document that I had to sign I had notarized (except the Long-Stay Visa Application Form [requirement number 1]), even if it didn’t say this was a requirement, just in case I needed it.
I honestly don’t know how much this part does or does not matter; however, I took it very seriously and put a lot of effort into it. I always have problems with a country’s ‘gate-keepers’ and I didn’t think it would fly to just put “I want to relax and do nothing.”
I wanted them to know that I thought about what I was going to do there and that I didn’t just submit this application to waste their time. I massaged their ego a little bit, talking about some of the great places in France that I would like to visit, some of the things that interest me about French culture that I didn’t feel I was able to get so much in the U.S., including that I intend to learn what real French wine is like, and also laying out a general plan of things that I would like to do while in France.
In line with this, I looked up the dates for some city-specific events that I wanted to attend, such as the film festival in Cannes, and I also made it clear that I intended to learn French while there. But, I didn’t just say that I wanted to learn French; I looked up language schools in the city in which I planned to live and I listed three potential schools along with how much each of them cost and when I would be able to start taking lessons. Listing the prices also showed that I would be able to afford the classes and this tied-in with the “Proof of Income” requirement.
I took my time in writing this document and I put some thought and effort into it. I can’t give you a clear example for what you should do and I am not going to just post my document here, but, my main advice would be to show that you are actually and honestly interested in France; otherwise, why are you applying for a visa to live in France? This is the kind of thinking that you should have when writing this section.
Also, note that there is no language requirement for this type of visa. Per the terms of the visa, I do not have to attend any language classes and I probably did not even need to mention this in the application. I simply want to learn French but I also want to have the flexibility that this visa gives me to not have to worry about attending French language classes for the duration of my stay.
The total length of this document, minus listing the three language schools, was less than half a page, exactly 249 words.
As with the other documents that I wrote, I signed, dated, and had notarized this document.
This is really important because you are applying for a visa that does NOT allow you to work in France. This is actually the only document that they expressly require be notarized.
All I said in this document was “I, NAME HERE, promise not to engage in any employment in France.” I then signed and dated this document and had it certified by a notary – the same thing I did with the other letters; though the other letters might actually not have to be notarized, this one document must be notarized.
Some of the French Consulate’s use different language when mentioning this requirement but they all just want to make sure that you will not work while you are in France. I would make sure to use the language that the French consulate to which you will be applying uses on its website when creating this document for your application.
Since I am not employed, I provided them with a very simple document that read “I, NAME HERE, am not currently employed and can therefore not provide a letter pertaining to my employment.” As with the other letters, I signed and dated this document as well as having it notarized.
Here, they want to know that you can afford to live in France for the duration of your visa without having the need to work. The amount of money that they look for here is hard to determine but, basically, this is the basic question/calculation that I use: Can I afford to stay in the country as long as my visa allows for it if I live in a hotel or hostel the entire time and still afford my food and entertainment?
You don’t have to be rich to be able to answer “yes” to this question. If you stay out of Paris, you can find many cheap hostels that will allow you to stay there for a long time. Hotels are usually 3 to 6+ times more expensive than hostels.
Now, living in a hotel or hostel the entire time is probably not ideal but it is important to be able to afford that since you will most likely not already have a more permanent accommodation setup before you arrive in France. The authorities want to know, in my opinion, that, if you were unable to find or secure a permanent, and usually less expensive, accommodation, that you could still afford to live somewhere. That is why the above financial calculation is important.
If you are going to stay in a very expensive apartment or other accommodation, you would of course need to show that you could afford to pay for that accommodation plus anything else you would want to do in France for the duration of your stay.
Now, let’s get to the documents that I submitted in order to prove that I could afford to live in France for the duration of my visa, which I stated as 5 months but was given for 6 months(which I believe is the standard initial visa length for this type of visa).
My plan was to show that I had enough savings to pay for my time in France. There are other ways to show this, such as retirement income or being guaranteed by another individual, such as a kid by their parents, but I believe that going the route of proving your savings can pay for it all is the simplest route.
To do this, I provided bank statements from the last three months to prove that I had enough money. It is important that you provide this, which should also include the daily average balance, for a period of time going back, the standard time-frame being three months, because the authorities know that some people try to cheat this requirement by having friends or family deposit money into a single bank account long enough to print off a statement of how much is currently in the account before they return the money back to their friends or family.
I had the statements printed at my bank branch and had a manager sign and stamp the documents to prove that they were real.
In addition to this, I requested a summary of my accounts to be sent from the bank’s head office to my address. This simply provided another level of assurance that I was submitting accurate documents. This document simply showed an average balance, including an average daily balance, of the accounts over the last three months and came on one sheet of paper. Depending on your bank, they may actually charge you for this document, which they tried to do to me until they, for some reason, decided not to charge me for it.
If you are crunched for time, you can usually print all of these documents, at least the regular bank statements, from the online interface for your bank account. Going this route, you will not have signatures from anyone at the bank but it might still work.
This is also a very important requirement because they want to make sure that you will not be using their medical system to pay for what you need. This requirement seems simple enough but they do not at all explain it well on the Chicago French Consulate’s website. I found out what you need by looking at French consulate websites for other regions of the U.S.
Different consulate sites for France recommend slightly different things, but, in general, it seems like you need at least basic medical insurance that covers a minimum of $40,000 for medical expenses, emergencies, and hospitalization for the entire duration of your planned stay in France (from the Washington French Consulate site: http://www.consulfrance-washington.org/spip.php?article401).
Most medical insurance policies will cover what you need for the visa in terms of care, just make sure to have at least $40,000 or more in coverage. My policy is a long-term travelers policy and has significantly more coverage than this so I only had to worry about proving what I had.
To prove that you have the proper medical insurance coverage, note that a copy of your insurance card will NOT fulfil this requirement, nor will a copy of your policy, according to some of the French consulate websites – and I prefer to err on the side of caution.
I called my insurance company and they emailed me three documents that I used for the visa application. I received:
- Global ID Card
- Declaration of Medical Insurance
- Confirmation of Coverage
Of these three documents, I believe the only important one was the “Confirmation of Coverage” document. This is the document that states that I have medical coverage, the amount of the coverage, the deductible for it, and, most important, that it works in France. In particular, my document mentions that it works in the “Schengen states” which seemed to work for my application. Note that France is one of the Schengen states.
Even though I didn’t think the “Global ID Card” and “Declaration of Medical Insurance” documents were required, I still submitted them along with the “Confirmation of Coverage” document.
Well, I am not married and I hope that I don’t have any children ;). So, unfortunately, I can’t help you with this section of your application. Since this requirement did not apply to me, I did not include any documents in relation to it.
Once again, this section did not apply to me so I cannot help you with it. I did not include any documents in my application in relation to this requirement as it did not apply to me.
This is another very important section in your application and one that causes a lot of people a lot of stress.
I did not have permanent accommodation setup before the interview and did not plan on having it setup before I arrive in France.
What I did was to make a reservation for 7 days in a hostel. Then, I simply printed off the confirmation message that I got after the purchase that showed the dates for which I would be staying there and submitted that with the application. I didn’t even get a confirmation email and so the confirmation that I printed was the screen that appeared after I made the reservation; though this still listed the address, email, and contact information for the hostel as well as the reservation details. It was as simple as that; no money was even charged to my card and, theoretically, I could have canceled the reservation at the hostel if I wanted to do that.
However, since this was all that I had, I wanted to show the interviewer that I did look into getting a permanent place and that I could afford a permanent place. To do this, I went on an apartment rental website, airbnb.com, and found a few apartments that I could afford that were available to book for the dates that I would be in France. I printed the checkout page for these apartments since that page showed the cost of the apartment and the dates for which I would be renting the apartment but getting to that page did not require me to pay for them. This would at least show the interviewer that I found a place in which I could live and could afford for my time in France.
Note that one thing that did cause a bit of confusion at the interview was that I submitted the checkout pages for 5 suitable apartments. The interviewer expected to see only one and I had to explain that I planned on renting only one of these apartments. It might have been better to include just one listing but I wanted to make sure they knew that I had options in case one or two of them were booked by the time I got to France.
So, in conclusion for this requirement, it appears to be perfectly fine to include a simple hostel booking reference to prove accommodation as long as you show them or tell them that you will use that period in the hostel to find a permanent accommodation. This also ties-in with the “Proof of Income” requirement since, from what I understand, it is best to be able to show that you could afford to live in your temporary accommodation for the entire duration of your stay if you needed to do that.
This was 99 euro or, at the time (early 2014) $134 USD for the application. This was payable with cash, exact change only, or credit card (Visa or MasterCard only) and is due when you submit your application.
On the requirements page of the consulate’s website, there is a link to a page listing the fees but I did not include that link here in case it changes on their site. You can get the link from the consulate’s requirements page (for Chicago: http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article482) and look to requirement 14).
I did not include the links to the residence form here in case they change it on the French consulate website. You can get the document from the consulate’s requirements page (for Chicago: http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article482) and look to requirement 15).
You need to fill this out if you plan to stay in France longer than 6 months. Since I applied for a 6 month or less visa, I did not need to fill this out and, therefore, have no experience with this form.
Follow these directions to the T. This is what they will use to send you your passport. Remember that they take your passport during the application process.
Make sure that the envelope is pre-paid by you. The directions tell you to use an Express Mail envelope, but I ended up using a Priority Mail envelope by accident and that worked out fine for me (at the interview I did make sure that it was OK to use the Priority Mail envelope, but I wouldn’t risk it if you don’t have to). The only difference between the two types of envelopes is that the Express Mail one is supposed to arrive faster but, in my experience, that doesn’t always happen.
If you are going to have a lot of visa’s processed at once, such as for a family, make sure to get a ‘flat rate’ envelope so you will get everything back. I think the Express and Priority type envelopes are already flat rate but I am not certain and I would just ask the Post Office guy about it when you pick it up since they are always changing rules and prices.
Remember not to stick the label on the envelope! Just ask for a sticky envelope from the Post Office and write everything on there but keep it in the envelope so they can apply it at the consulate.
That’s all for the requirements. They can request more documents to process your application if they want, but this was all that I had to submit. I did NOT for instance have to submit a criminal background check, which you may have had to do in the past.
Once I collected the required documents, all that was left was for me to go to my visa appointment/interview in Chicago.
To have your visa application processed you must make an appointment with the French Consulate for an interview of sorts. You basically just have to go there in person to hand them your application documents (more about that in the Interview Process section below).
To schedule the appointment, you enter some information into an online scheduling system and choose the desired date/time, which is broken up into 15 minute segments.
Once you schedule the appointment, you need to keep and print the appointment receipt. This lists the time of your appointment along with some other information and it is what you will hand the clerk at the consulate before they will call you up for the interview.
The link to get to the online appointment system is on the requirements page for the visa (though this link is broken for the French Consulate in Chicago website), but you can also usually find it on the main page of the consulate website inside one of the main navigation boxes on the right side of the page, such as on the French Consulate for Chicago website (http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?rubrique2).
When you go in for an interview, don’t worry, you are not going to sit across from the interviewer over a steel table in a white room with a one-way mirror on the wall. This is not an interrogation! For some reason, I kind of thought that it would be like this and that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
For the French consulate in Chicago, you go to a medium sized waiting room of sorts to apply for the visa. When you enter, you give them your printed reservation receipt, that you got when you signed up for an appointment through their website, and you then sit down and wait until they call your name.
Once they call your name, you go up to one of the two people standing behind the glass window in the waiting room and hand them your documents. They will ask you a few simple questions like “For how long do you plan to stay in France?” and “When do you arrive in France?” and “How did you get your money?” or “What did you do for work?” and they may ask you to explain some of the documents that you gave them if they are not certain what they mean or why you are submitting them.
Note that I did have a flight ticket booked to go to France before my interview and I was able to give them this date in the interview; but, they did not ask me for my ticket or any proof of that date. I do not know if you need to have a set date of arrival in France or if that helps in the application process, but the interviewer did write that date on my form.
I also had to explain my accommodation documents since I included multiple possible permanent accommodation options and the interviewer wanted me to explain which one I was going to use (what I did for this requirement is covered more in the accommodation requirement section of this article). Along with this, I told the interviewer that I would have temporary accommodation in a pre-booked hostel, along with giving her the booking receipt for this hostel, before I moved into any permanent accommodation and she seemed to be fine with that.
And don’t forget that you will pay an application processing fee once you hand in all of your documents. When I went, early 2014, the fee was 99 euro or $134 USD and payable with exact change in cash or Visa/MasterCard.
All in all, the interview process was not as stressful as I had imagined it and the interviewer was very nice. I worried that it would be a situation similar to going to the DMV but it was much better than that. If you have any questions, you can ask them there and they seemed quite nice and receptive to dialogue as opposed to curt yes/no type answers. They also speak fluent English and do not expect you to speak any French during the interview process.
I hope that your experience will run as smoothly as mine. 🙂
If you have any questions or comments, just put them in the comment section below!